“Cat Island” Tashirojima, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan


After my hour walk around the tsunami devastated town of Ishinomaki, I went straight to the town’s port terminal to board the 12pm ferryboat that will take me to Tashirojima or popularly known as the Island of Cats.

The ferry terminal at Ishinomaki is the only way to access Tashirojima, so I was very conscious about the timings, arrived an hour earlier prior departure to ensure that I won’t miss the very limited traveling boat per day. (If you want to know the direction how to go to Tashirojima, message me on the comments below, I will be happy to help).

Once again, with my awkward mix of Japanese-English language, I was able to communicate to the very helpful staff of Ajishima Line where I wanted to go and what I wanted to see. A map in Japanese was handed out to me together with an advise that I should disembark at Nitoda port (2nd stop) instead of Oodomari port (1st stop), due to the availability of more cats to play with.
tashirojima (cat island)

The staff was happy to see a foreigner visiting the area; I was received with such enthusiasm and was offered a coffee while waiting. Returning the favor, I opened a box of Hokkaido Potato Farm omiyage (souvenir) that I had with me and share it with them.

With 30 minutes to spare, I walked around the port area. Obviously, the first thing that I saw is our sweet ride for the day, the ferryboat “MERMAID”.
tashirojima (cat island)

Not to far from the ferryboat are three gentlemen enjoying the weather and fishing at the Kitakami River, while across them is a mountain of trash and debris from the tsunami disaster.
tashirojima (cat island)
tashirojima (cat island)

At exactly 12pm, we left the ferry terminal. It was a beautiful day and I wanted to sit outside and just enjoy the view of the sea and the sky.
tashirojima (cat island)
tashirojima (cat island)

After almost an hour, we arrived at Ootoda port, several passengers chooses to get off at this terminal.
tashirojima (cat island)

After 5 minutes, we arrived at my destination- Nitoda port.
tashirojima (cat island)
tashirojima (cat island)

Due to the 2011 Great Tohoku Earthquake/Tsunami disaster, Tashirojima has gained popularity in the world citing as an island where the human inhabitants (mostly elderly, above 65 years old) are outnumbered by feline population.
tashirojima (cat island)
tashirojima (cat island)

Situated very close to the earthquake epicenter, the island was almost submerged under water but it was gladly reported that both people and cats population were all safe.

The increase in number of cats in the island is due to the local fisherman belief that feeding and taking care of stray cats will bring wealth and good fortune,and the cats behaviors and actions provides an accurate prediction of the weather and the fishing patterns.
tashirojima (cat island)
tashirojima (cat island)
tashirojima (cat island)

Still, there were only few people who know about or who decided to travel to the island, including my Japanese friends and colleagues who wonders if such an island actually existed.

If you decided to visit Tashirojima or mention it to other people, the obvious next question is “Do you love cats?”, which I was asked a lot. I made several friends on the ferryboat and one of them is lady from Kyoto who owns 4 cats and travels to Tashirojima every year, spend 3 days photographing and playing with island cats.
tashirojima (cat island)
tashirojima (cat island)

I am not really a cat or dog person, but might be converted to one after seeing these cute cats on the street. I haven’t photograph cats before, so just happy that the cats of Tashirojima did cooperate and posed, though some seems to be on the bad mood and wanted a treat.
tashirojima (cat island)
tashirojima (cat island)
tashirojima (cat island)
tashirojima (cat island)
tashirojima (cat island)
tashirojima (cat island)
tashirojima (cat island)
tashirojima (cat island)
tashirojima (cat island)
tashirojima (cat island)
tashirojima (cat island)
tashirojima (cat island)
tashirojima (cat island)
tashirojima (cat island)
tashirojima (cat island)
tashirojima (cat island)
tashirojima (cat island)
tashirojima (cat island)
tashirojima (cat island)

Apart from spending time with the cats, one of the most interesting architecture I have seen in Japan is a few minutes walk from Nitoda port, I almost missed it due to the lack of English signage. The island is known as the Manga Island.
tashirojima (cat island)
tashirojima (cat island)
tashirojima (cat island)
tashirojima (cat island)

A tourist rental vacation homes built in 2000 and designed by famous manga/anime creator Shotaro Ishinomari, the Manga Island compromised of several buildings shaped like cats and decorated with cats drawings.
tashirojima (cat island)
tashirojima (cat island)
tashirojima (cat island)
tashirojima (cat island)
tashirojima (cat island)

Like the rest of the homes in the island, these Manga Island vacation homes were untouched by the tsunami due to higher elevation. Though, during my visit it seems that the facilities were all closed.
tashirojima (cat island)
tashirojima (cat island)
tashirojima (cat island)

With more time spare prior boarding the 15:30 return trip back to Ishinomaki ferry terminal, I decided to walk further towards Neko-jinja , a small cat shrine.
tashirojima (cat island)

According to the shrine background story, a local fisherman was collecting stones to use as a fixed-net when one of the stones fell from his hand and accidentally hitting and killing a stray cat. Feeling terribly sorry for what happen, the fisherman buried and enshrined the cat on the present location of Neko-jinja.
tashirojima (cat island)
tashirojima (cat island)

Basing on the same story, at the shrine there are several stones offering decorated with cats images together with Hello Kitty figurines.
tashirojima (cat island)
tashirojima (cat island)

Time to head back. Boarding the return trip ferry with me are electrical and construction workers who finished a day work at Tashirojima.
tashirojima (cat island)
tashirojima (cat island)
tashirojima (cat island)

An amazing sunset view to end the day.
tashirojima (cat island)

Tashirojima is an island worth visiting. I really enjoyed my time and make friends along the way- both cats and human of course.

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92 thoughts on ““Cat Island” Tashirojima, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan

  1. I am most definitely a cat person, not a dog person, and I LOVE this post. That last photo is another wallpaper / NatGeo photo! ^^

    Some of the cats seem to have an eye disease?

    1. thanks Ru!
      i was thinking about the same thing and no idea what’s on their eyes. since they are stray cats mostly, i would assume that those are just dirt or something, the house cats eyes looks fine though..

  2. Beautiful photos! Looks like a very lovely place for a vacation. Ps- if you were wondering, when kitties have their eyes squinted shut at you, it’s a sign of respect and means they are happy and relaxed! =^_^=

    1. thank you very much for liking this post and for that information!
      i was worried that the cats don’t like to be photograph particularly because i don’t have treats for them.good to know that they are happy and relaxed 🙂

  3. It looks amazing! But have you read Murakami’s ‘1Q84’? If you have, you might understand why the idea of a ‘cat island’ scares me a little. (>_<)

    1. 🙂
      i’m read 1Q84 prior visiting Tashirojima. i keep on thinking about the same thing! Tengo visiting his father at the Cat island 🙂

  4. hello… how are things, hey. this is a lovely document of your trip on the cat island. i took a long time reading it and really looked at every picture, haha. felt like i went there with you. thank you for sharing… ~ San

    1. Thank-you for posting your pictures and story!! I worried and wondered how Cat Island fared when the earthquake/tsunami hit … So very glad to hear they’re ok. Hope to visit and take it in one day!!

  5. Thakyou for the very interesting and usefull story. I am a cat lover and would love to visit tashirojima. Do you know if there any organized tour or trip from Tokyo to Tashirojima?

    1. Hi Era,
      As far as I know, there is no organize Tokyo-Tashirojima trip.
      I would advise to visit by yourself- First take a bullet train to Sendai City, then take the bus at JR Sendai Station to the town of Ishinomaki (JR-train station). From there you can either walk or take a taxi to the ferry terminal to board the Mermaid boat that will take you to the island.

      Ishinomaki is the town damaged by the 2011 Great Tohoku Earthquake, they are undergoing rebuilding process and visitors are warmly welcome not only on this town but across the Tohoku Region.
      For more information, you can inquire at the tourist information desk located at JR Sendai Station and JR Ishinomaki Station.

  6. really want to visit this island and just take my time with the cats, just that the hotels only open during the summer and their website seems to be down … or it’s an old link …

    1. you are right, the website is usually down and the hotels are open during summer only.
      though another option is to find a family or elderly living at the island with a spare room willing to accommodate you.
      i met a Japanese woman who did the same and stayed at the island for 3 days, though this will be difficult if you are non-Japanese speaker..

  7. Reblogged this on * and commented:
    I can’t even begin to express how HAPPY I am that such a place exists. Unfortunately there’s no way it will fit into my itinerary due to time and budget constraints ;_;

    1. Hi Charlene,
      Yes, it is truly a one of a kind place and knowing what the island, the people, the cats had been thru makes it worth visiting even more.
      If you have the time/budget, I would highly recommend a trip to Tohoku Region.
      Enjoy your tour around Japan!

  8. Thanks for posting this!! I love cats, the next time I visit Japan, I will definitely plan a trip. I had no idea such a place existed, thank you so much for the detailed post 🙂

  9. Oh, I see you went to Cat Island as well! ^^
    When did you go there?
    You were super lucky with the weather! 😀

    I went there in May 2012. I couldn’t find ANY information in English about it AFTER 2011, so I decided to go and confirm myself. After I went I tried to spread the word and luckily after I did a lot of (foreign) people went to visit the island.
    I’m glad to see that other people are posting about it as well! 🙂

    I definitely want to visit again, possibly this May.

    1. yes, i had a great great time! one of the best travels in Japan 🙂
      i went there last year, around early autumn months..
      saw your blog post about the island and you did an amazing job!

  10. Hello,
    I’m working for interdisciplinary web site and magazine describing the broader issues in the area of entrepreneurship, culture and creativity called PURPOSE (http://www.purpose.com.pl/en/purpose_magazine/).
    Currently we are preparing an article about Tashirojima for our travel section and we are looking for the pictures of the island. We are really impressed with your pictures. Would you be willing to let us publish your photographs from your visit to Tashirojima with the article. Of course with your photos credit.

    Best,
    Justyna Szczepańska
    justyna.szczepanska@gmail.com

  11. Really enjoyed reading your blog on Japan. You give insight into the ordinary through your photographs. I travel to Japan frequently and I’m glad to see a blog which presents a different perspective. Thanks for sharing and keep going!

  12. Thank you for sharing the very interesting place for cat person like me. i really wanna visit there for my honeymoon trip im from Thailand so i have to start all the journey from Tokyo so may i ask how long does it take if i want to visit here from Tokyo? after all article i’ve read.. the bus is the easiest way but i prefer train. is there any accommodation on this island or i have to stay at Ishinomaki only.

    1. hi, from Tokyo you have to make your way to Sendai City, either you take the train or bus your choice.
      from Sendai City, you have to take another local train to the town of Ishinomaki, from there you can just walk towards the pier area to board the ferry that will take you to the island.
      i would suggest that you stay overnight at Sendai and dedicate a whole day exploring cat’s island.

  13. i planning for a trip down there is end December as well, trying to piece together how other tourist reach there. gonna take the overnight bus from tokyo which will reach Sendai in like 5am… I was researching around and Ishinomaki can be reached by bus as well. How long did the local train from sendai to Ishinomaki took ?

    1. Sorry for butting in! ^^
      I’ve been to Cat Island as well and you can check the train time on “hyperdia.com”. It’ll take about 80 mins by local train from Sendai to Ishinomaki! 🙂

    2. hi choy, as what zoomingjapan mentioned you can check hyperdia.com for everything train journey related questions that you have.

      BUT for the specific case of train from Sendai to Ishinomaki, i’m not sure if they are operational these days.
      i remember taking the bus instead during my visit due to some parts of sendai-ishinomaki tracks are heavily damaged and nonoperational.

      have a great time and say hi to the cats for me 🙂

      1. i read about the train problem, that’s why i am looking more for the bus route from sendai to ishinomaki.
        Thanks zoomingjapan, will look at hyperdia. Just wondering, your 80mins is before or after the tsunami ?

      2. I went there post-2011, so after the earthquake and tsunami hit.
        The trains are running just fine. No problem at all. I went in May 2012.
        So, the 80 mins I stated is post-2011. 🙂

  14. What a great write up and your photos are fab!!… I’m really sad (especially now that I’ve seen your great pics of the place) that I didn’t know of this place while I was over there.I absolutely love Japan…and cats so really wish that I’d have also visited.Ah,hopefully next time …Especially love the pics of the kitty shrine and kawaii figurines.Lovely blog!! 🙂

  15. Hello, I’m planning to visit Japan on December, and I’d like to know how much does it cost do visit Tashirojima!
    thank you!

  16. i am wondering why everyone is taking the 12pm boat ?

    I have been monitoring the website, there is a 9am boat as well that would give us more time on the island (which I am planning to board this December). Is it because it is too early ?

    1. I did take the 9 a.m. boat – and I would do it again. I stayed overnight in another city, but it didn’t take too long to get to Ishinomaki by train from there. It’s early, but you would want as much time as you can get on the island, right? 😉

  17. What a wonderful story and photos! I adore cats. I am absolutely crazy about them; and I love dogs, too.
    As I have donated to several stray cat projects, I have to interject some practical questions. Is anything
    being done with regard to spaying and neutering? Are there vets who go there to treat the eye problems
    and other health issues? If the cats are allowed to breed unchecked, one day, if not already, there will be
    the problem of overpopulation and it attendent tragedies of deasease, fighting, lack of resources and death. We solved the problem on the Island of Mustique in the Caribbean. Nothing is more delightful
    than to be among hundreds of cats and what an idylic place to live. But without population control, and
    the aid of healthcare workers, this paradise will be lost.

    1. hi, thanks for your comment.
      I wish I can answer most of your questions, but I dont have much information too. But based on my observation, I think the human inhabitants of the island are doing their best to take care of the cats. I will also assume that vets do visit from time to time..

  18. yeah i will … and if I don’t get lost making my way there, I try to make a how to get there guide when I get back to my country in January 😀

  19. I would love to visit this island, but I live all the way in North Carolina. I don’t even know where to start on how to even begin my trip. Any advice/info you can give me? Thanks!

    1. hey there Riley! Sorry for super late response..
      I think you should start planning your trip to Tokyo and from there with enough time you can head your way to Tashirojima..

  20. Hi! I really liked your note. I am planning to go to the island in July. Do you know what are the ferry’s schedules or where can I check that information? Thank you son much!

    1. Hi Masu, first head to ishonomaki and make your way towards the port area. For ferry schedule, i remember there is a ferry leaving at 9am and another an hour after, though to be honest I dont remember the exact details and if there is any changes..

  21. Hi there! thanks for your guide and beautiful pictures!

    I am planning to head to Tashirojima in the coming week and am really looking forward to it. May I ask, how does one get from Ishinomaki station to the port terminal?

    Your help would be greatly appreciated!

    Sincerely,
    Caroline

  22. There is a bus that goes from Ishinomaki to the port terminal but the time cuts real close. I remembered i wait till like 20mins before the 9am departure and still see no sign of the bus. Ended up taking a cab (which is plenty outside the station) to the port. Costed just under 1000 yen and about 10mins. Funny thing is when i reach there and wait like 5mins for the boat to depart, I saw the bus arrive just in time.

    You can really catch the bus and still make it, but I didn’t take the chance. There is a police station just outside, I ask them which bus and they didn’t had a clue … LOL.

    For those none Japanese speaking, if you take the cab. you could try saying in half broken Jap “Tahirojima. Minato E-Ki-Tai” . loosely translated to Tashirojima , I want to go to the port terminal. It got me there that time, maybe i was lucky.

    – CHOY

  23. Hello! I’m planning to go to this island, renting a car from sendai but I can’t seem to find Ajishima Line ferry terminal on the map! Could you help me out with this?

    1. hi, sorry for the late reply. i’m not so sure if the transportation including ferry to the island is still available or the same, coz i visited few years back.

      sorry not much help. enjoy 😊

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